Professor Lydia Plowman

Professor Emerita


My research interests stem from my early career teaching English in secondary schools, combined with an enjoyable time working as a postdoc in the School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences at the University of Sussex.

This was followed by a period as Research Programme Manager at the Scottish Council for Research in Education. I was subsequently Professor in the School of Education, University of Stirling and then Professor of Education at the University of Edinburgh. I was Dean of Research in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Science until December 2017. Now retired, I have been selected as a member of the Scottish Funding Council's Advisory Group on Supporting Scotland's Postgraduate Researchers from August 2022 and continue to maintain an active interest in research.

Responsibilities & affiliations

The SFC Advisory Group on Supporting Scotland’s Postgraduate Researchers has been formed to provide advice to SFC as it explores opportunities for supporting postgraduate researchers in Scotland that could be harnessed by a national approach. I was formerly Associate Director of the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science until July 2021 and co-Director for Research at Moray House with  Prof. Gillean McCluskey with shared responsibility for our submission to REF 2021. Until December 2017, I was the Dean of Research for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. I was a member of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Strategic Advisory Network from 2013 until 2019 and a member of an EPSRC working group on Responsible Research and Innovation. I was elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in 2013.

I was a member of the advisory group for the Technology-Enhanced Learning programme funded by ESRC and EPSRC (£12 million from 2008 to 2012) and was Vice-Chair of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Grant Assessment Panel B until July 2015. I am an invited member of assessment panels for the Norwegian Research Council and was a member of the Carnegie Trust's Collaborative Research Grants panels (2016 - 2018).


Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

Please note that I am not available for doctoral supervision.

Current PhD students supervised

  • Valentina Andries - Promoting play in a children's hospital: a person-centred approach to technology design with families
  • Xin Luo - Parents' voices on WeChat: Exploring the modernisation of early years education in China
  • Maureen Finn - A socio-material reading of belonging: mobile children and mobile devices in school spaces
  • Zarina Muminova - Parental engagement in children's early learning in rural Tajikistan
  • Sabina Savadova - Young children’s everyday experiences with digital media: Listening to families’ stories in Azerbaijan

Research summary

I have more than twenty years’ experience of conducting research with children and technologies and finding out about their play and learning. My PhD on designing for group use of interactive media, with a particular emphasis on the role of narrative in supporting learning, was awarded in 1992 - and while the laserdisc technology that I was investigating has long been obsolete, many of the pedagogical and design issues remain the same.

My research interests are mainly in digital media and children’s play and learning in a range of formal and informal settings, but over the last few years I’ve become increasingly interested in the ways in which technology is used for leisure, work and educational purposes in the home, with a focus on young children and how technology is integrated into family life. In pursuit of these interests, I draw on anthropology, learning sciences and cultural psychology for theoretical and methodological insights applicable to the study of technology embedded in detailed analysis of its social, cultural and educational contexts of use - along with a concern for interaction design and user experience. The shift in the focus of my research from the compulsory years of schooling, formal learning environments and workplaces to the home and preschool settings has inevitably led to an interest in diverse domestic and leisure technologies, including Internet of Things, tablets, dual screen technologies, mobile phones and connected toys.

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Current research interests

Digital Play is our response to the many people who tell us that they would like to know more about the role of digital media in the lives of the children they look after. It focuses on young children aged up to five or six and is intended to be useful for educators, students, childminders and others working with parents and caregivers at home or in early childhood education and care settings. Building on many years of research in this area, we look at findings afresh and provide an overview of some of the information that’s available. Our aim is to support professionals and caregivers in feeling more confident about developing strategies for integrating digital media into family life. The Digital Play booklet (62pp) is free to download at

Affiliated research centres

Project activity



View all 51 publications on Research Explorer